Canal du Centre

Canal du Centre

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Up the Canal de Bourgogne, May 31-June 6

242 kilometers with 189 locks, the Canal de Bourgogne connects the Yonne River at Migennes to the Saone at Saint Jean de Losne, traveling though the 3 k long Pouilly tunnel at it’s summit. First conceived in the early 16th century, construction didn’t begin until 1775 when three gangs of 600 workers started construction on part of the eastern section. In the early 1880’s work began on the Saone side but wars and the Revolution caused many delays. It wasn’t until late 1832 that a barge left Paris and made it all the way to Dijon.
We’ve traveled the eastern section from Saint Jean to the tunnel several times but somehow just never made it over the top. This time we’re doing the whole canal. Since we’re not in any hurry, we guess it will take us about a month.
After departing Migennes on Friday morning we made our first stop after about 20 k at Saint Florentin. Back in 2015 while we were waiting for our offer on Oldtimer to be accepted, we cruised a small portion of the canal with Jenny and Adrian on their then-new-to-them Piedaleau. We stopped in Saint Florentin, a small bank mooring and basin. Not any more. In the last five years the port had been upgraded with a brand new expanded capitanerie and all new facilities. Unfortunately, that means the portion that used to be free now costs. Such is progress.



The town is dominated by it’s church and the one tower that remains of the 6 in the 12th century fortifications.


We headed over to the tourist office, first walking under the church. 


We had read that it had beautiful stained glass windows but we couldn’t get in; it was locked. We did find a note on one of the doors, however, that told us a key was available at the tourist office. The tourist office woman gave us the key but told us to lock the door behind us when we went in. We’d get our own private viewing.

Built in the 16th and 17th centuries in Gothic and Renaissance style, L’√©glise Saint Florentin was restored between 1857 and 1871. 
Entering the door we found a beautiful rood screen from 1600. It is unusual in that it’s carved in stone.


As advertised, the windows, from the 15 century from the Troyes school, are incredible. I just can't get good stained glass pictures with the phone but I hope you can get an idea.


The St. Nicholas window


The window explainer.


A window detail.

Saturday we decided to go for a walk. The weather was finally improving and there was a hike we could make that took us across the fields and onto a portion of the old Roman road. It turned out to be a little more that we expected. The walk was about 7 miles. We waited until the afternoon (after the market) and it had really warmed up. We did see some interesting things, though, like this church in Avrolles that was never completed.


Along the old Roman road, some paving still visible, we found a stone marker from sometime in the BC’s near a former army camp.


After a couple of nice days, the weather turned threatening again with spitting rain and cool temperatures.

Sunday we were off to our next stop, Tonnerre, 25 k and 11 locks up the canal, mostly because just on the other side of the canal from Tonnerre is Epineuil, a small vine growing area where they make some fine wines. We paid a visit to a couple of tasting rooms and came away with some tasty red wines from Domaine Gruhier. One domaine had a sale on their ros√©’s so we picked up a couple of those, too.

Lavoirs are all over Burgundy. Public wash houses that were usually located along rivers and streams, they were a gathering place where clothes were washed and “news” was exchanged. Tonnerre has an exceptional lavoir. First it’s round while all the others we’ve seen are long and narrow. Also, this one is fed by a spring so instead of being along the river, it’s on the side of the hill up by the church.


Oh, yes. The church.


We couldn’t get in the Tonnerre church 
because its undergoing some restoration work.

Tied up behind us was a Dutch couple that we spent several enjoyable hours with. Hans and Tineke on Tinus (a very unusual Dutch-built hire boat in steel) helped us out with a cheese and wine surplus. Hans also introduced us to Spanish cognac, something we’re going to have to find when we get back to Ventura. They were headed in the other direction so on Wednesday we headed up the canal while they headed down.


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